27/02/2017 00:24 GMT | Updated 27/02/2017 01:25 GMT

Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP And Father Of The House Of Commons, Dies Aged 86

An MP since 1970.

Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton and Father of The House of Commons, has died aged 86 after suffering a long-term illness, a family spokesman said.

The Labour politician was first elected as Manchester Ardwick MP in 1970 before becoming Manchester Gorton MP after constituency boundary changes in 1983 until his death.

The Father of the House honour is now bestowed upon Tory MP Ken Clarke, who has spent the same number of years as an MP.

Westminster legend holds Sir Gerald asked to be sworn in before Clarke because he had a dinner engagement to meet.

He also coined the phrase “the longest suicide note in history” to describe the Labour Party’s 1983 left-wing manifesto. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described Sir Gerald as an “iconic and irascible” figure who “loved life and politics”.

Sir Gerald’s family announced his death “with great sadness”, saying:

“Sir Gerald had been suffering from a long-term illness for several months, but, in that time, remained firmly committed to, and focused on, the activities and wellbeing of his beloved constituency, which he had served since first elected in 1970.

“Sir Gerald dedicated his life to serving those who he believed would benefit most from a Labour government and Labour values in action.

“He believed that policy and principle without power were simply not enough to deliver the better life that he fought for on behalf of his constituents for almost 50 years.

“Though Sir Gerald had many friends and supporters in Manchester and across the world from his work on many campaigns and causes, he was in essence a private man.

“There will be a further opportunity for those who wish to pay tribute to the contribution of this great socialist and parliamentarian in due course.

“For now, his family request that his dignity and integrity be honoured through respectful reflection.”

Corbyn said:

“I’m very sad at the passing of Sir Gerald Kaufman MP.

“An iconic and irascible figure in the Labour Party, Gerald worked with Harold Wilson when he was Prime Minister in the 1960s and became a Labour MP in 1970.  

“Gerald was always a prominent figure in the party and in Parliament, with his dandy clothes and wonderful demeanour in speaking. 

“Gerald came from a proud Jewish background. He always wanted to bring peace to the Middle East and it was my pleasure to travel with him to many countries.

“I last saw him in his lovely flat in St John’s Wood in London, surrounded by film posters and a library of the film world. 

“He loved life and politics. I will deeply miss him, both for his political commitment and constant friendship.”